The Holy Innocents (Refugee)

Image by Linda Richardson

Image by Linda Richardson

The poem from my Anthology Waiting on the Word reflects on the fact that today, the fourth day of Christmas, is the feast day of the Holy Innocents. It is the day the Church remembers the story, told in Matthew’s Gospel of the appalling cruelty and wickedness of Herod in ordering the massacre of innocent children, in a bid to protect his own power-base. Appalling, but only too familiar. What Herod did then, is still being done by so many present day Herods. This scarred and wounded world is the world into which Jesus was born, the world he came to save, and amongst those brought by his blood through the grave and gate of death and into the bliss of Heaven are those children of Bethlehem who died for his name without ever knowing him. But he knows them, as he knows and loves every child in Syria, and he says of them, to every Herod, ‘Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.’

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above was created by Linda Richardson. she writes:

Last year we thought nothing could be worse than seeing the bodies of refugees wash up on the beaches of Europe. This year the awful news of the destruction of Aleppo and its people breaks in upon our TV screens and hearts. Sometimes we feel that our own personal safety and comfort should be denied, after all, with so many millions of people suffering, do we have a right to personal happiness? It must be a question that so many of us ask ourselves. Of course we do not have the right to personal safety and happiness but these events give us the opportunity for generosity and gratitude.

The image is self explanatory, a nameless and homeless family, and Malcolm reminds us in his sonnet that Jesus was born into just such a situation. There is nothing new in murderous power and bloodshed and we must allow the pain of it to sing in our blood as we pray the psalms on behalf of our refugee brothers and sister, “O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge; Save me from all those who pursue me…deliver me.”

You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

This sonnet has been adapted and set powerfully to Music by Steve Bell on his Album Keening For The Dawn.

As always you can hear this sonnet by pressing the ‘play’ button, if it appears, or clicking on the title.


We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,

Or cosy in a crib beside the font,

But he is with a million displaced people

On the long road of weariness and want.

For even as we sing our final carol

His family is up and on that road,

Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,

Glancing behind and shouldering their load.

Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower

Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,

The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,

And death squads spread their curse across the world.

But every Herod dies, and comes alone

To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.



Filed under christianity

6 responses to “The Holy Innocents (Refugee)

  1. Bridget I Kiniry

    Thank you. How can we think about Holy Innocents without thinking of the Holy Innocents of today. SBK

  2. Pingback: The Long Road of Weariness and Want – Barnstorming

  3. Barbara Danner

    How can we adequately thank you, Malcolm Guite, and you, Linda Richardson, for sharing your wisdom and talent with us. Today’s gift is especially wonderful.

    Barbara Danner

    Buford, Georgia USA

  4. Bethan Scotford

    I echo Barbara Danner’s thanks to you for your daily poems and reflections;
    in particular, thank you for your series on the Great O Antiphons. They,have, enriched by your sonnets and comments, have ‘opened out’ and quickened my understanding of the depth of their message. This morning, our vicar read out ‘the’Refugee’ sonnet was read out in church, and I followed at her request, that by singing the following hymn /song ( words and music courtesy of Wild Goose Resource Group).
    If my name was Mary,
    ( just sixteen with a child)
    forced to flee my country,
    (failing state turning wild)
    would you have a place for me?

    If the town I came from
    once had been occupied
    by your nation’s soldiers
    at whose hands my dad died,
    would you have a place for me?

    If your nation’s air force
    dropped their bombs on my street
    on the wrong presumption
    that was where rebels meet
    would you have a place for me?

    If I’d learned your country
    saw and heard of our plight
    but remained persuaded
    we were wrong and you were right
    would you have a place fro me?

    If the boat I paid for
    was unfit to set sail,
    and if seeking refuge
    was now certain to fail
    would you find a place for me?

    If my name was Mary
    (just sixteen with a child)
    if his name was Jesus ………

    PS I have used your poem ‘Distant’ in conjunction with the above poem too.
    The effect was stunning!

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